Sunday, March 8, 2015

Science and Scientism

I am often told by the non-religious that science gives them there world view and that religion is outdated. This again shows that they understand neither religion nor science. First, what is religion? Religion is, according to Oxford Dictionary,"The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods." Science is defined as "The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment."

The problem with this is that science is not something that can give you a worldview or a philosophy. Science can tell you how old the Earth is, how it got here, and to an extent the origin of life. However, it cannot explain morality and the purpose of existence. In truth, science is not opposed to religion; rather it is the partner of religion. As the late J. Rueben Clark, Jr. once said "Religion teaches us why things are, science is teaching us how."

The point I really want to make is that this view that people often mean when they say "I believe in science" is not science at all, rather it is scientism. Scientism is defined as "Belief in the universal applicability of the scientific method and approach, and the view that empirical science constitutes the most authoritative worldview or most valuable part of human learning to the exclusion of other viewpoints." This is not really a new idea, it was the philosophy of the now gone logical positivists, men like Bertrand Russell and A.J. Ayer. They postulated what was called verification, and on this worldview unless you could prove something empirically (through the five senses), then the statement was meaningless. And these men were merely borrowing the ideas of the empiricists (David Hume, John Locke, Bishop Berkley), who taught that the best way to obtain knowledge was through the five senses, although Hume also believed to a degree that reason played a role in learning.

Simply put, scientism is not a science, so it is missing the very point in its mission. Rather than being science, it is a philosophy. And philosophy is far more nuanced than science. For instance, can I empirically prove that there are objective moral values? Can I empirically prove that I love my spouse? Can I empirically prove that that there is no God? You can say, as the verificationists  did that such statements are meaningless. But what can be more meaningful than being a moral person, in a world where morality is slowly disappearing? What can be more meaningful than being a loving spouse, when marriage is the true bedrock of society? What can be more meaningful than knowing that there is a God, who is the author of objective morality and the designer of human destiny? These are not meaningless questions Mr. Russell and Mr. Richard Dawkins

Simply put, scientism is neither science nor good philosophy. True science stays within its domain of observance to remain true; when it ventures into morality, the existence of God, and various other things such as logic and reason, then it is no longer science. Use science and reason, but never make science your reason or your religion. You mock true science when you do.

1 comment:

  1. I like your second to last paragraph a lot. Well written.